By Robert M. Pimpsner
The New York Yankees signed infielder Thairo Estrada as an international free agent on August 2, 2012, for $49,000. He was part of the same international free agent class that netted the Yankees Luis Torrens and others.
At the start of 2014, Estrada went to Extended Spring Training to prepare to join a short season team in June. When June came, he was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees where manager Mario Garza called him a very exciting player to watch. “He is small in stature,” Garza said, “but he plays the game the right way, plays hard. He is an on-base machine, dominates the routine play.”
Estrada went on to appear in 17 games for the Staten Island Yankees. In 59 at-bats, he hit .271/.348/.288 and stole seven bases. His season was cut short when he suffered a leg injury on July 4, 2014, in a game against the Hudson Valley Renegades. He suffered the injury while running from first to home on the double.
After being shut down for most the season, he was sent down to the Yankees Complex in Tampa to rehab. He closed out the season appearing in six games for the Gulf Coast League Yankees at the end of the season. He hit .273/.304/.364 in his return.
The 2015 season saw Estrada return to the Staten Island Yankees where he hit .267/.338/.360 in 63 games, 247 at bats. His success earned him mid-season New York-Penn League All-Star honors after hitting .306 before the All-Star Break. He had 73 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, hitting .356/.429/.466 against southpaws that season. The majority of his time saw him hitting third in the order, batting .296/.370/.407 in the three-hole.
Most of Estrada’s time in the field in 2015 came at second base, playing 45 games there as opposed to 19 games at shortstop. It was the first time he played second base since the 2013 season when he played nine games at the position for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.
Thairo Estrada started the 2016 season with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. The young infielder found himself in a prospect-laden infield that included his 2015 teammate Kyle Holder, 2014 International Free Agent Hoy Jun Park, and Angel Aguilar. He appeared in just 35 games for the RiverDogs, hitting .286/.324/.429 in that span before earning a promotion. He continued to hit well on the road with a .333 average, .350 OBP and .551 slugging on the road versus a .226 average, 294 OBP, and .274 slugging at Joseph P. Riley Park. He also hit right-handed pitchers better than lefties with a line of .301/.339/.447 against righties vs. .243/.282/.378 against southpaws.
On May 23, 2016, Estrada earned a promotion to the Tampa Yankees. In 83 games, he hit .292/.355/.375 in the Florida State League. On September 4, 2016, he had his best game in his career thus far going 4-for-4 with three doubles and one RBI. With the T-Yanks, he hit .317/.412/.378 against lefties and ended the season strong with a .306/.370/.379 line after the all-star break. In total, he had 28 multi-hit games between both levels.
Estrada moved around the infield in 2016, spending time at second base, third base, and shortstop. Most of his games came at second where he had a .961 fielding percentage in 57 games, followed by third base where he had a .958 fielding percentage in 47 games. He saw the least amount of time at shortstop where he appeared in just eight games in 2016. He committed just 16 errors in 376 chances which were good for a .957 fielding percentage in total.
When compared to some of the bigger names in the farm system Thairo Estrada has been a bit of a sleeper though he has been consistent at the plate through his minor-league career. Estrada is a reliable defender in the field with good range, quick hands, and a plus-rated arm. He can be a regular shortstop, but due to the depth, the Yankees have at the position he will continue to move around. He has the arm to be a third baseman and will likely see more time at that position in 2017, but he also has the speed to see some time in the outfield. If 2016 has proven anything, it is that he is more than capable of being a strong defender at any position the Yankees put him.
At the plate, Estrada possesses good pitch recognition and patience at the plate. He makes solid contact and has shown to have strong knowledge of the strike zone. While he is still filling into his body and isn’t much of a power hitter, he does make strong contact at the plate. Estrada is a strong runner as well, with the potential to be a 20-base stealer in the majors.
Estrada ended the 2016 season hitting .292 in 83 games for the Tampa Yankees, usually a performance like that would earn him a promotion to the Trenton Thunder however with the depth the Yankees currently have in the infield he will likely find himself back in Tampa to start the 2017 season. This season look to see Estrada see more time at third base and possibly some time in the outfield.